As many as 20 million domain names are registered via Whois privacy or proxy services, an ICANN-sponsored study has found.
The study, conducted by the National Opinion Research Center, looked at a sample of 2,400 domains registered in .com, .org, .net, .info and .biz.
It found that 18% of these names used a privacy/proxy service to hide the contact details of the true registrant. Its margin of error means the actual number could be between 16% and 20%.
Extrapolating to the universe of 101 million domains registered in these five TLDs at the time the sample was taken in January 2009, NORC estimates that between 17.7 million and 18.4 million domains used a proxy.
NORC also estimates that the current number of private registrations could be “substantially higher” today, due to increased market traction for such services.
This, combined with the growth in registration numbers to over 115 million domain names as of January 2010, means that the actual number of privacy/proxy registrations among the top five gTLDs is likely to be substantially higher than 18 million.
When you consider that some privacy services charge as much as $10 a year for private registrations, that adds up to quite a healthy market.